If you enjoy learning about our nation's history but do not enjoy stuffy museums, pack your RV and head for Fremont Indian State Park in Utah.
The Fremont Indians, who are basically the same people who built the pueblo cave dwellings in Colorado, made permanent settlements in this part of Utah about 2,000 years ago. But no one really knows how long they hunted and gathered here before making these caves their permanent homes. In fact, no one would know anything about the Fremont Indians at all if highway workers had not stumbled upon some village ruins as they were building Interstate 70 in the 1980s.
It’s incredible to think that the people who lived here so long ago enjoy basically the same outdoor activities as today’s Fremont Indian State Park visitors. They ate outside with their families, watched the stars at night, and traversed the area’s hiking trails. Granted, the Fremont Indians did not use ATVs on the trials, but today’s visitors can do so if they please.
Fremont Indian State Park is off Interstate 70 in Utah. It’s easily accessible via RV, albeit the journey is a rather far drive from almost anywhere. Given the length of the trip, and the isolation of this place, an RV is definitely the way to go. These vehicles really do transform traveling into an adventure.
Fremont Indian State Park is incredibly isolated, about halfway between Provo and St. George of Highway 70. The nearest town is Sevier, and both “nearest” and “town” are relative terms. This park is almost exactly in the middle of the sprawling and oddly-named Fishlake National Forest. It’s really a vast wilderness area with a few tree groves here and there. If you need RV camping supplies, or just about anything else, get them before you leave home.
There is a huge parking area near the museum. As fate would have it, this parking area is also close to the main ATV trailhead. It’s funny how life works out sometime.
The largest Fremont Indian State Park RV campground is definitely for campers. It has 31 dry (no hookup) parking spots. Each site has a barbecue grill and picnic table, so you can enjoy dinner underneath that fabulous night sky. The scenic campground is inside a canyon about a half mile from the museum. Campground amenities include vault toilets and an RV dump station.
This non-roughing-it RV campground has seven full hookup (water, electricity, and sewer) parking spots. This campground also has a huge group RV site which features multiple power hookups and a large outdoor pavilion. Sam Stowe is closer to the petroglyph cliffs, and some cave drawings are usually visible from your RV campfire. In addition to a fire ring, most of these spots have picnic tables. Campground amenities include a restroom and shower area.
Navajo tradition dates these mysterious cave paintings to the antediluvian (before the biblical Flood) world. To see these drawings, visitors go through a winding and narrow gorge that leads from the museum to a monstrous rock formation. Some historians believe that people drew these pictures for religious reasons, but no one really knows. Visitors cannot get close enough to touch the petroglyphs, because they are far too fragile for that. But you can get close enough for very good pictures. Even all these years later, these faded cave drawings still produce an aura of mystery, intrigue, and beauty.
During the spring and summer, there is almost always something happening at Fremont Indian State Park. The first annual event, the Night at the Museum Sleepover, is usually in late March. It may not be anything like the movie franchise, but it’s still pretty cool. The event year ends in October with a fall festival and hayride. In between those events, our top picks include the Easter egg hunt in April, movie night in July, and the pine nut roasting demonstration in September.
The Day Use Area is a great place to spend a few hours even in the heat of summer. During much of the day, the towering rocks nearby provide some shade. There is also a sheltered picnic area, in addition to several open picnic areas. The isolation of this place also gives visitors plenty of opportunities to be alone. This is an idyllic setting for a rustic and serene picnic.
Many of the museums at other state parks are probably not much bigger than your living room. But this place is different. Mostly because it did not open until the late 1980s and does not attract a great many visitors, this large museum is like something you would see in a big city. Most visitors watch the movie in a large and comfortable theater and then peruse through the many exhibits about the Fremont, Pueblo, and other Indians who lived in this part of the American West. Other museum amenities include restroom facilities and a nice children's play area.
This trail stretches some 900 miles through central Utah. As mentioned, most of this area is wilderness. The scenery alternates between lush forests and craggy rocks. Along the way, you’ll probably see deer, mountain lions, and other wildlife. Many RVers rent ATVs and OHVs (off-highway vehicles) at Joseph or Elsinore and then tow them to Fremont Indian State Park. Keep an eye on the trail markings. Green means easy, blue is moderate, and black is (really) difficult. During the winter, some of the higher elevation sections of this trail may be closed.
Bring your telescope to Fremont Indian State Park, because the sky is spectacular, especially on a moonless winter night. The swirling clouds of Venus and the rock formations of Mars are usually visible with a telescope. Visitors can also view the gas giants and many features outside our solar system, like gas nebulae. Stargazing is a great way to end a busy day and connect with our collective past.